Jun 30, 2010

Best Friends Forever. Romance Conflict Adventure.

0 Blurts

Oh my god...You guys?...Seriously... Ohmygod....

I think there is an excellent chance of this being your new favorite band. Yes, they’re cute and amateurish, but cute and amateurish in a way that's actually totally awesome. These were the girls in high school that you always wanted to hang out with, but they already had so many secret handshakes and insider jokes and possibly their own language that you never managed to get that close to them, even though they really weren’t trying to exclude you. They would have been theater nerds if theater nerds weren’t so insufferable. They’re dramatic, but they know being dramatic is hilarious. And now they’re here to let you in on the joke.

Jes and Bri have known each other since they were wee lasses, and have been making music together since the eighth grade in Minneapolis. They actually started out as a semi-emo, Smashing Pumpkins inspired instrumental rock band, although in their current form you would think they spent their childhood listening to K Records and the Unicorns. All the songs are indeed about romance, conflict, or adventure and they are also quirky, ramshackle, and silly—and yet completely heartfelt.

Handpocket employs the always welcome, but underutilized glockenspiel (it’s the new cowbell!), and rhapsodizes about inviting your paramour to casually feel you up in public. Also, you will learn that both of the singers nearly died in childhood ice fishing accidents. It’s incredibly catchy, especially the way they sing PUT PUT PUT PUT Put your hand in my back pocket during the chorus.

Ghost Song explores the existential and physical problems of dating the non-corporeal, and sexily implores their see-through boyfriend to “put [his] ghostly tongue in my mouth and move it all around and around”. Don’t laugh, spectrophilia is a real condition and sounds like one of the most inconvenient sexual fetishes of all time.

Eisenhower is the Father thanks the prez for building the interstate highway system so that years later she could travel cross country with her crush, and even if they had an accident it wouldn't be so bad because maybe they'd end up sharing a hotel and see each other in their underwear.

Actually, I shouldn’t have said they were amateurish earlier. The first couple of times through you're too busy laughing at the last cheeky line to notice that the bass playing is wickedly propulsive and detailed, the drums are rocking, complex, and far more creative than you hear from most professional bands, and the organ can effortlessly switch from roller-rink funk to cartoonish glee depending on what's called for.

Jes and Bri work crazy well together (as BFFs would), trading lines, sometimes harmonizing, sometimes stepping all over each other, occasionally belting it out like an out-of-tune opera star. They have incredible chemistry, which is really what lets the band pull off what would otherwise be novelty songs in the hands of lesser mortals (It's practically impossible for a band to be funny but not gimmicky). They make it sound as simple as if they got the directions off the back of a soup can.

Romance Conflict Adventure

Jun 28, 2010

Wake Ooloo. What About It.

0 Blurts

I really like this one. I tend to fall for albums that have a bit of sprawl and eclecticism to them rather than a purity of vision (I’ll take the Cure’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me and Wish over Disintegration any day). There are more rooms to wander into and explore. Part of the shifting stylistic focus is due to other members of the band taking a shot at the songwriting, so if you liked Dave Weckerman’s Yung Wu project, you’ll get a little more his unique vision here (the dude has some pretty odd lyrics, and his voice is even more informal than Glenn’s). I think it’s also probably unfair to listen to Wake Ooloo at this point expecting to hear another Feelies album. Of course, it’s hard to escape the memories, what with Glenn’s flatter-than-Lou-Reed voice, and a couple of songs do sound reminiscent of the slower moments on later Feelies records, but for the most part, this is its own beast. The rocking parts rock harder than they used to, and the poppier bits are usually just out for a nice stroll. There’s a nice mixture of lackadaisical slide guitar, country blues, classic rockisms, and garage burners.

What About It

Jun 26, 2010

Field Mice. Emma's House.

0 Blurts

Sarah 012
Released: December 1988
01: Emma's House
02: When You Sleep
03: Fabulous Friend
04: The Last Letter

Emma's House

Jun 25, 2010

Sex Church. Dead End/Let Down.

0 Blurts

It seems inevitable that a goth band would eventually name themselves Sex Church. I'm just surprised it didn't happen twenty-five years ago. The genre was already awash in religious/erotic iconography (I used to have this sweet t-shirt that combined a medieval painting of the Virgin Mary with a similar painting of Jesus in such a way that made her look both topless and intersex), and everybody knows goths like to make out in graveyards and old churches. Even a large contingent of my non-goth friend’s stories of their first time begin with, “So, I was away at church camp…”

Dead End rides a stomping, Bauhausian bass line out of the gloom before wading knee-deep into a black pool of fuzz and feedback. From there it takes off on an endless, mesmerizing blanket of deep purple tones and crushed velvet vortexes. Chiming guitars skitter and pluck at silver threads while the rest of the band ascends a hypnotic Spacemen 3 riff that becomes the song’s driving force. At the last minute, they suddenly perform a graceful swan dive and explode into a joyful chorus of Jesus & Mary Chainisms. The B-side is more gloom and dirge; smeared lipstick to the a-side’s electric tangle of bird’s nest hair.

Sex Church is made up of former members of Catholic Boys, Vapid, and Ladies Night, none of whom I am familiar with, although I notice that Nick G was in The Tears.

They have a new EP out on Convulsive Records, too.

Sex Church

Jun 24, 2010

Pink Floyd. A Sucerful of Outtakes.

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The Syd Barrett estate is putting together a visual history of Syd’s artwork as well as a treasure trove of unpublished photos from his youth and early years in Pink Floyd. The vast majority of these images have never been seen before. If enough people are interested, it will all be published as a large format, cloth-bound, slip-cased, limited edition collector’s book. Right now, though, not enough people have signed up to make it worthwhile for the book to be published. If you think you might like a copy, head over to the Barrett Book website and register your email address. You are not ordering or promising to buy a copy by registering, you’re just letting them know you might want to.

To put you in the mood, here’s a collection of early Floyd recordings, including the extended version of Interstellar Overdrive and Syd’s last songs as part of the band, Vegetable Man and Scream Thy Last Scream.

1. Lucy Leave
2. I’m a Kingbee
3. Interstellar Overdrive
4. Astronomy Domine
5. Experiment
6. Flaming
7. The Gnome
8. Matilda Mother
9. The Scarecrow
10. Vegetable Man
11. Pow R Toc H
12. Scream Thy Last Scream
13. Jugband Blues
14. Silas Lane

Tracks 1 and 2—First Pink Floyd studio session
Track 3—Studio session, 10/31/66
Track 4—Live in London, 5/12/67
Tracks 5 and 14—Studio outtakes, 1967
Tracks 6 through 9—BBC session, 9/30/67
Tracks 10 through 13—BBC session, 12/19/67

Promo video about the book

A video for one of my all-time favorite Syd songs, Bike, that the band shot for Belgian TV

A Saucerful of Outtakes

Jun 23, 2010

Bikini Kill. Revolution Girl Style Now. The Demos. Plus a Peel Session.

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Kathleen Hannah could scream like nobody’s business. I’m talkin’ a hyper-tantrum wail that could pierce walls, lies, ignorance, ideologies, and indifference. She could sing it sweet, too, when she wanted, and the band could more than equal her furious, explosive energy or turn it down to 11 for some laid-back indie sing-alongs. This is movement punk—where the Riot Grrrls traded in anarchy for feminism—angry, articulate, fearless, and playful. Rebel Girl could put up a fight with any other punk song ever recorded. They were out to save lives; to reclaim the “radical possibilities of pleasure” when surrounded by rape culture; to define cool on their own terms in their own voices; to make their own noise, write their own stories; to be the subjects, not the objects of history. They channeled the transgressive, cathartic energy of punk into REVOLUTION GIRL STYLE NOW! If you’re a teen girl, don’t go another day without adding them to your collection. If you’re anybody else, you need to hear them, too.

Punk rock feminism rules, Okay?


Jun 22, 2010

Wake Ooloo. Hear No Evil.

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Glenn Mercer loosens up and floors it down a twisty road leading somewhere between the Feelies, Tom Petty and Felt. It sounds like Glenn just wanted to crank it up and rock his socks off while Dave walloped the drums. There’s still plenty of the Feelies’ texture and knotty guitars, but louder, coarser and unplanned. It almost feels like you’re listening to an unknown Feelies album, but one where they were weary of being so uptight and precise and said “Awfuckit. Let’s just play.”

Hear No Evil

Jun 21, 2010

Exuma. Exuma.

4 Blurts

I’m an obsessive music collector, driven by the fear that somewhere out there my favorite band exists, and I haven’t heard them yet. Exuma may be that band. I stumbled across them on some random internet music blog and was absolutely floored by their power. It was like hearing your earliest, great musical discovery again for the first time.

Now, this is unquestionably a weird album. It could be the soundtrack to some grainy, underexposed “documentary” of dubious voodoo rituals that nobody quite understands. And yet it doesn’t sound at all unfamiliar. It’s a sing-along, dance-along album of strange and beautiful afro-calypso-soul-folk-voodoo-blues that will chill you to the bone and light a bonfire in your soul. It sounds like Ritchie Havens singing Paul Simon songs arranged by Dr. John over the underworld’s PA system. Oh, and they’re all zombies, and every spirit of the in-between is there to sing and chant and mourn and praise and keen right along side you in a fever dream of exhilaration and joy.

It’ll get under you r skin and stay there.


Jun 14, 2010

Ministry. Jesus Built My Hotrod.

1 Blurt

Ministry never did anything for me, which is fine because Gibby Haynes fucking owns this song anyway.

Jun 11, 2010

The Trypes. The Explorer's Hold.

1 Blurt

The first of many side projects, this little ep is probably closest to their "classic" nervous sound. Aside from the lovely, Brenda sung opener (which sounds more like future Speed the Plough material), there's the requisite cover (the Beatle's Love You To, which seems like such an obvious fit I'm surprised it took them this long to get to it), and two songs that sound like outtakes or demos from Crazy Rhythms.

Explorer's Hold

Jun 10, 2010

Yung Wu. Shore Leave.

2 Blurts

Another of the Feelies' alternate incarnations, this one features Glenn, Bill, Stan, and Brenda along with recent Feelies addition, Dave Weckerman. John Baumgartner, from The Trypes and Speed the Plough, is also along for the ride.

Actually, this was Dave's side project. He takes lead on vocals and wrote the songs, but with Stan Demeski's characteristic rolling toms, Brenda's rich bass leads, and those wonderfully humming, intertwining guitars, there's no mistaking the band. Recorded in between The Good Earth and Only Life, it's a rootsier affair packed with all the shimmering, strumming, sea-faring folk-rock you've come to expect from a Feelies' side project. They cover both Neil Young and Brian Eno, and the album as a whole sounds a bit like what might happen if the latter produced the former. I guess they got out all their pent-up nerves on Crazy Rhythms.

I've yet to be disappointed by anything Feelies related, and this is definitely one of their more charming and beautiful affairs.

Shore Leave

Jun 8, 2010

Speed the Plough. Speed the Plough.

8 Blurts

Speed the Plough were one of several bands that radiated out of the Feelies on-again-off-again period. Begun as The Trypes—featuring Glenn Mercer, Bill Million and Stan Demeski—they recorded a single, understated EP before disentangling once again, with Brenda Sauter defecting to join the reformed Feelies. The Trypes became Speed the Plough, with Bill Million contributing guitar and production duties. Multi-instrumentalist John Baumgartner, rock critic Jim DeRogatis, woodwind and percussionist Toni Paruta remained, along with Marc Francia, Frank O’Toole and Pete Pedulla rounding out the group and adding several more guitars and drums.

The result retains the influence of the Feelies’ rustic, atmospheric work on The Good Earth and adds cerulean horns and accordion drones, shifting the setting from the golden hour to the deep blue twilight just before inky darkness absorbs the day. It’s a drifting, pastoral version of the Feelies’ tightly-wound, prim psychedlia, and achieves a rich, bucolic beauty of the sort I think R.E.M. would have liked to make—but instead opted for repeatedly having themselves photographed standing around in fields of grain. In fact, this is exactly the album I would want to hear if I could spend the day drifting waist-deep in a grassy field, or rocking to sleep in a hearty wooden dinghy floating on silver ribbons of water through a sea of cattails.


Jun 2, 2010

Emily's Sassy Lime. Desperate, Scared, but Social.

0 Blurts

Another craptacular week where I'm not going to have any free time. Stealing this description from wikipedia. I'll just say they sound like Sleater-Kinney as teenagers:
Emilys Sassy Lime (a palindrome) was an all-Asian American teenage riot grrrl trio from SoCal, formed in 1993 by Wendy and Amy Yao, and Emily Ryan. According to Experience Music Project, they formed after sneaking out of their homes one night to see a Bikini Kill and Bratmobile show, striking up a correspondence with Molly Neuman, the drummer of the latter band. They didn't live very close to each other and didn't have cars, so they often had to write their songs over the phone, sometimes leaving seminal ideas for tunes, jingles, and melodies on each others' answering machines. When they finally did have a chance to record, they did so on a singalodeon, a cheap off-the-shelf lo-fi tape recorder. They barely ever practiced (often forbidden from doing so by their parents who considered their studies a bigger priority), making their sound a random, spontaneous indie garage punk-noise collage of "Whatever, just play." They didn't have their own instruments for years, so with every show they played, they had to borrow someone else's in the DIY punk spirit of sharing, often swapping with each other carelessly and making every show sound totally different.

In 1995, they all appeared as dancers in the Kathi Wilcox-directed "Mad Doctor" video for The PeeChees, and they broke up the following year when they finally graduated from high school and attended separate colleges. In 2000, they all participated in the very first Ladyfest in Olympia, the Yao sisters collaborating with Sharon Cheslow in the experimental sound installation performance art project of Coterie Exchange, and in 2003, Emily Ryan starred in one of Jon Moritsugu's critically acclaimed no budget guerrilla underground punk films called Scumrock. Amy Yao's been involved over the years with several different bands, frequently collaborating with Tobi Vail, and completed her MFA in sculpture at the Yale School of Art. Wendy Yao currently owns and runs a shop and DIY indie-punk artist space in LA's downtown Chinatown neighborhood called Ooga Booga.